Where’s Einstein When You Need Him at the Grocery Checkout Line

Many years ago, Albert Einstein was attempting to explain the concept of the impenetrability of solid objects in the physical world.  He very eloquently, and in simple terms which anyone should be able to understand, stated it this way:

No two objects can occupy the same space at the same time.

One would think that this reality would be intuitively obvious to just about everyone, but I have learned without question that there are those who believe that the laws of theoretical physics simply do not apply in the grocery store checkout line. I know this through direct observation having had the misfortune of engaging two such skeptics within the past few weeks.

Let me set the scene for you.  One afternoon a few weeks ago, I had completed cruising the aisles at my local Publix, picking out everything that I needed.  The heavy work done, I proceeded with my full cart toward the front of the store. Arriving there, I scoped out the nearest open checkout line which didn’t already have someone queued up waiting for their turn to stimulate our nation’s economy.
Check out
Once in the line, I started unloading the items from my cart and placing them on the checkout line conveyor starting at the end nearest the clerk and working my way backward, filling up the empty conveyor as I went.

And it’s at this point that this otherwise simple and efficient process ground inexorably to a halt.

I reached into my cart, extracted a couple of cans of something, turned to place them on the conveyor belt only to find one of those bars used to separate purchases, behind which was stacked the next customer’s groceries.  The only problem was that I still had half a cart of groceries that I needed to place on to the conveyor.

The first time that I found myself at this impasse, I turned to the somewhat vacant looking woman standing at her cart in line behind me and politely suggested, “Pardon me, but I’m going to need some space to put the rest of my groceries.

She momentarily registered a confused expression, then paused for a moment before huffing, “Well, I’ve got to put my stuff somewhere! 

Quickly I deduced that she had probably cut class on the day that Einstein’s principle of the impenetrability of solid objects had been reviewed in Physics 101.  The realization that her stuff  had been quite content waiting in her cart for its turn to be placed on an empty conveyor had obviously never crossed her otherwise self-consumed and vacuous mind.

Forrest Gump was never more insightful than when he stated, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  And in this particular case I’m quite confident that Einstein would have been in lockstep with Forrest’s assessment.

At this point the conveyor moved forward about a foot leaving an open space directly behind her groceries.  In a somewhat theatrical fashion I looked from the empty space behind her groceries to the total absence of space where I need to place my purchases and then back again.

Immediately, it was obvious that my antagonist just wasn’t following the complexities of this situation, so I took my arm and swept her groceries back up the conveyor to make room for mine.  It only took two repetitions of this maneuver in order for me to finish unloading my groceries.

Sadly, I must report that this exact scenario repeated itself this afternoon; right down to the customer behind me being totally oblivious to the fact that she had shown no consideration for the person in line ahead of her, much less even a rudimentary understanding of the principle of impenetrability.

My response this afternoon was quick and effective.  I simply leaned over and swept her groceries back up the conveyor making all of the room that I needed.  I knew better than to waste words in a futile and frustrating attempt to illustrate the problem.

For you see, I am well aware of another of Einstein’s principles:  Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over again in an attempt to obtain a different result.  And I’m not insane.

Happy shopping!


Photo credit: juicyrai Foter.com CC BY-NC-SA

If I Didn’t Have Bad Luck, I’d Have No Luck At All

Bad times have a scientific value. These are occasions a good learner would not miss.

                                                                                                    – Ralph Waldo Emerson 

I would agree with Ralph Waldo, but only up to a point.  The fact of the matter is that bad times, repeated often enough, cease to be opportunities for learning and personal growth and morph into intolerable, non-value adding life experiences.  They can become agonizing thorns in one’s side which one begs to have removed by any means available.

I’m confident that Emerson was an intelligent and compassionate man, and that he had the best of intentions when he penned his thoughts on the subject of bad times.  But I also suspect that he never had to experience the personal impact of corporate down-sizing.  Certainly not twice in the span of five years, as I have now done.

My current reaction to bad times (aka workforce reductions and lay offs) is more in line with the sentiments expressed by Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant when he mournfully wailed:

                                                       “Good times, bad times, you know I’ve had my share…
My first opportunity for “learning” from a workforce reduction came after 34 years of continuous and uninterrupted employment.

One afternoon, I walked into a meeting with my boss to review several projects that I was then managing, only to find out that I was no longer qualified for the position which I had held for several years.  Imagine my surprise when I also discovered that I was equally unqualified for any and all other positions within the company.  In fact, my only alternative was to accept early retirement.

I was, in effect, made an offer I could not refuse.

Having lived through the emotional tailspin of unexpectedly finding myself unemployed, I’ve said many times that I would never wish this turn of events on anyone.  Not even the miscreant (nor the senior management team surreptitiously skulking behind him) who had orchestrated my release into the world of the under-employed; along with 500 or so of my coworkers.  I still firmly stand by that statement.  No one deserves to have their career and livelihood ended so abruptly.

Let’s fast forward five years, rapidly skipping over a number of interim jobs which I was very thankful to have at the time, but was equally happy to have left behind.  A few months ago, Good Fortune finally shined upon me in the form of a “real” job.  My simple definition of a “real” job is full-time, 40 hour per week employment in which I am responsible for a number of tasks that I can envision myself doing for many years to come.  Semi-retired employment nirvana, you might say.

And it was …… for as long as it lasted.  One morning the Vice President of Operations and the Human Resources Director walked into my department.  I looked up and without even thinking said, “Uh-oh.  This can’t be good.”  The HR Director, who I’d gotten to know, replied, “You’re right.  It’s not.

Two hours later, the entire department, including its manager, had been laid off due to …… you guessed it!  Workforce Reduction.

So once again, I find myself out in the wide, wide world of the Un- and Under-Employed.  Sadly, I’m not alone.  Even after five years of meandering in and out of this state, I find that over-population is still an issue out here, despite the somewhat dubious statistics being reported by our friends in government.

Right now, I’m totally focused on reconnecting with Good Fortune, but I haven’t found him yet on Linked In.  If you know his e-mail address, feel free to pass it along.


Photo credit: Photographer unidentified / Foter.com Public Domain Mark 1.0
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Parenting Tips and Tricks – #61

Did you read or hear about the Massachusetts ten-year old who called 911 this past Wednesday night because his mother had told him that it was time to go to bed?

The young miscreant apparently felt that his Mom had done him a great injustice and was intent on teaching her a lesson by assuming that the local constabulary would be in full agreement with his side of the story.

Apparently the young man lost his nerve and hung-up on the 911 operator halfway through filing the report on what he believed to be his mother’s unreasonable mandate.  Following normal procedures in such cases, the operator called back to confirm whether or not there was an actual emergency.  This time the mother answered the phone.  I happened to hear this exchange when a local radio station replayed the audio from the 911 call.
As I was listening, it occurred to me that the 911 operator, who happened to be female, must have also been a mother.  You could hear the empathy in her voice and visualize her head shaking in total agreement as the juvenile malefactor’s mother explained the situation.

The 911 operator informed the mother that it was normal operating procedure in handling calls of this sort for a police officer to respond to the scene and that one would be arriving there shortly.

It was at this point, that I believe a brilliant opportunity was missed for teaching this particular ten-year old a very valuable life lesson.

Had I been the parent in this case, I would have taken the police officer aside and asked that he give my son a real dressing down regarding abuse of the 911 system and that he then place him in handcuffs and march him out to the patrol car as if he was going to be taken “downtown.
Please.  No one needs to point out to me that, in these politically correct times, it would be extremely unlikely that  any officer would have been willing to “cuff” a ten-year old.  Just allow me a few moments to savor the thought of it ……… Ah, yes, that was good!

Let’s play out the rest of my scenario.  After giving the policeman enough time to walk the reprobate out to the car and open its rear door, I would bound out the front door of the house and rush across the yard while imploring the officer to show leniency to my son.

After all officer, this is his first offense and I’m sure he’ll go straight to bed and never do anything like this again!  Isn’t that right, son?

Lesson learned, case closed, and most importantly the little blister totally recognizes once again that he’ll never be able to out think his old man.

Alas, just a dream and yet another lost opportunity in creative parenting.


Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Childhood Recollections and Other Trauma

Do you ever find yourself thinking about your earliest recollection?  While it’s not something I dwell on, I do find myself recalling mine from time to time.  Or at least that moment in time which I believe to be my earliest memory.

I’m laying on my side on the kitchen floor of the modest house where I spent the first five years of my life.  It’s summer.  I know this because the door which leads from the kitchen out into our single carport is open.  I’m peering through the bottom half of the screen door, looking over the short wall which forms the far side of the carport.
The carport is empty, which most likely means that my Dad is at work since our light blue Buick station wagon, circa 1954, is nowhere to be seen.  Let me tell you, that vehicle was a real land barge.  I remember it well, the original “family truckster!”  But back to my recollection.  I’m intently studying the various patterns made by the lines of mortar and brick on the side of our neighbor’s house.

And there my recollection comes to an abrupt end.  Probably due to my falling asleep on the cool linoleum floor on that particular warm summer afternoon.  As a youngster, and even to this day, I’m not one who is likely to pass up an opportunity for a quick and restorative siesta when the mood is right.

It’s interesting that whenever I recall this scene in my mind, I always see it in black and white.  There may be some deep psychologically significant explanation for my remembering this moment in monochrome or perhaps it’s simply due to the fact that these events occurred in the era before the advent of color television.  Who knows?  The fact remains that I almost always envision events from the 50’s in black and white.
One memory from this same period which I do recall in vivid color involves a cake that my mother made.  In 1957, or thereabouts, my father and I were stricken with chicken pox at the same time.  Not an especially big deal for me at somewhere around the age of five, but much more serious for my father who would have been twenty-eight or so.

We were sequestered to the isolation of a single bedroom where we rode out of our shared illness, surviving largely on chicken noodle soup.  We’d contracted the pox in early February.  I know this because my mother, in an attempt to bolster our low and quarantined spirits, made a heart-shaped two layer cake for us on Valentine’s Day.  She covered the cake with icing that, in color, was somewhere between red and pink.
Don’t ask for an explanation because to this day I have none, but for some reason when I caught sight of that sickly pink icing, I, along with everyone else in the sick bay, was immediately assaulted by a tidal wave of nausea.  Bad timing, that!  And certainly not the reaction that my loving and very considerate mother had been expecting to receive for her labors.

The event was evidently seared into that area of my brain which controls appetite.  It was months before I could bring myself to eat cake of any variety.  The very smell of a recently baked cake was enough to send me careening through the nearest available exit in search of fresh air.

Thankfully, through sheer force of will, I managed to overcome the debilitating effects of this trauma.

I can now state categorically, that I have hardly ever met a cake I didn’t like!

And may it remain so.


Nectar of the Gods or Cheap Drunk

I work for a small company which recently is experiencing a lot of growth.  This of course is a very good thing in these days of economic and employment uncertainty and I’m very happy with the situation.
In order to gain some ground against the backlog of work, a number of us were asked to work this past Saturday.  In the hope of getting my part of the work done in time to leave a significant portion of my Saturday open for other activities, I decided to go in early.  Actually, you might say that I went in late on Friday, as I was in the office by 4:30 a.m.

Despite our best efforts, the amount of work that needed to be done kept us busy until late Saturday afternoon.  Since I was going to be tied up for most of the day, my wife decided to go to work on Saturday as well.

I’m sure that you’ll understand that I was really dragging by the time that I got home; as was my spouse.  Neither of us felt like cooking on Saturday evening and we just didn’t have the energy required to crawl back into a car to drive to a restaurant, so I dug a pizza out of the freezer and popped it into the oven for a quick and dirty, if not nutritious, dinner.

As I was exploring around in the refrigerator, I also came across a bottle of beer that my youngest son had purchased over Thanksgiving, but had never opened.  Since he’s living out of state, I decided to appropriate the bottle and put it to immediate use.  His loss was my gain, so to speak.
st bernadus
Now this wasn’t just an ordinary bottle of beer.  First of all, it contained 25.5 ounces, not your ordinary 12 ouncer!  It also was sealed with a cork and wire mesh thingamabob just like you see on champagne bottles.

It was a bottle of St. Bernadus Belgian Abby Ale, which, since there was enough for both my wife and myself, seemed to me to be the perfect beverage to compliment the pizza which was nearing culinary perfection in the oven.

As I was about half way though consuming my portion of the pizza and the very excellent Abby Ale, I couldn’t help but notice that an overwhelming sense of peace and general well-being was beginning to course through my mind and body.  The effects of the long work day just seemed to be draining away with every bite, or perhaps more importantly, every sip.

At one point, I looked over at my wife who was apparently experiencing an equally deep Zen moment and said, “Damn!  I think I’m getting buzzed!”  Such was the sharpness of my mind and verbal eloquence.

As I was meandering back into the kitchen to place the dishes in the dishwasher, I picked up the empty St. Bernadus bottle to learn more about this delightful beverage.  It didn’t take me long to notice the small disclosure on the bottom edge of the label.  It read, “10% ALC./VOL.

Ah ha!

I was well and truly buzzed, but given the other circumstances of the day, finding myself in that condition wasn’t all bad.  In addition, by 8:30 p.m., I was well and pleasantly asleep and enjoying every minute of it.
Smiling Monk
Now I understand why the monk on the label is smiling!

Long live good St. Bernadus!

What Would Christmas Be Without A Tangerine?

Is there one thing, a single item, that is inexorably linked in your mind with Christmas?

There is in mine. Each year during the first or second week of December, I find myself beginning to think about tangerines and navel oranges.

The root cause of this culinary anomaly can be attributed to my grandfather. He was a man of tradition, as well as a great lover of the Christmas season and all that it entailed.

Looking back on my youth, I think he was always at his happiest during the weeks leading up to Christmas and especially on Christmas day itself. I’m confident that he enjoyed playing with our presents as much as my brother and I did.
Granddad thoroughly delighted in everything associated with Christmas from playing Santa Claus, to hiding presents, to surprising his two grandsons with that one gift that each of them most yearned for, and to ensuring that every Christmas our kitchen was stocked with a large box of fresh Florida tangerines and navel oranges.

There was never any fanfare or explanation as to why the citrus turned up each Christmas, it just happened; and with clockwork regularity.

I suppose my grandfather must have been a closet tangerine/navel orange junkie who just wanted to make sure that he had a ready supply available in the event that he was overcome with the urge to ingest a little vitamin C.

Whatever the explanation, to this day I associate Christmas with those two fruits and can’t imagine a Christmas without them.
Over the years, my personal preference has shifted to navel oranges, mainly due to their lack of seeds and the ease with which they can be eaten. I suppose that I’m a bit of a neat-freak. But let me stumble across a tangerine and immediately I think of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and manger scenes; as well as my grandfather.

If you don’t mind, I think I’ll run downstairs and peel myself an orange right now! I could use an additional dose of that ol’ time Christmas spirit! This one’s for you Granddad!


Remembering the Reason for the Season

This Christmas promises to be the most unique that I have probably ever experienced.  A number of unrelated circumstances have chosen to come together to make that a very real likelihood.  Perhaps, this scenario was what the Mayan calendar and all of the other prognosticators were attempting to predict, rather than the full-blown end of the world as we know it.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve typically been on vacation for the last two weeks of December which enabled me to spend the Christmas and New Year’s holidays in close proximity with my family; enjoying every minute of it I might add. That run apparently will come to an end over the next few days.
In no particular order, here are the reasons that I will not be experiencing a classic Currier & Ives Christmas this year.

I’ve recently taken a new job.  Coming after a far too-long period of under-employment, this is generally very welcomed news.  But the reality is that as a new employee, I have no vacation to speak of, thereby making it necessary for me to be at work on both Christmas Eve, as well as the rest of the week beginning the day after Christmas.

Both of my sons have finally graduated from college and have moved out of state.  Very far out of state unfortunately.  The distances involved and their work schedules are also conspiring against the traditional family gathering this holiday season.

My wife is out of state at her parent’s house, where I normally would have been spending the next few days.  She’s there not only to celebrate Christmas with her parents and sisters, but also to help provide care for a seriously ill family member. Clearly she is exactly where she needs to be.

The bottom line is that I’m minding the store back at the family homestead and will probably be celebrating Christmas Day alone.

I guess that it would be possible for me to be a bit down-in-the-mouth over this situation, but I really don’t find myself in that state of mind.  First of all, I’m very thankful for the new job and I’m enjoying working there.  I’m very proud of both of my sons, their accomplishments during their college years, and their efforts at beginning their working careers.  Likewise, I’m very pleased that my spouse will be able to spend Christmas with her family and provide care and support during a trying time for them all.
I will occupy my time enjoying the day off, being thankful for all that I have, and remembering that the reason we celebrate Christmas day is that it marks the birth of Jesus Christ.  At the end of the day, all the rest of the holiday hoopla is nothing more than wrapping paper and eggnog by comparison.

Best wishes to you for a very Merry Christmas, wherever you happen to find yourself this holiday season!

Simple Fare for a Friday Evening

As I was driving home from work this evening, it suddenly dawned on me that I was going to be on my own for dinner. My spouse is visiting her family this weekend and my work schedule kept me from joining her, so I found myself in the position of having to come up with something appropriate to fill the gullet.

I recalled that some of the homemade chili which I had whipped up earlier in the week was still in the refrigerator awaiting ingestion, but somehow that just didn’t appeal. Everything else that I could think of was still in a rock-hard frozen state and I wasn’t really warming up to the alternative of having to thaw something out. Pun intended.
My culinary quandary was short-lived as I rapidly came to the conclusion that this was going to be “Sub Night in the Big City!”

My current Sub sandwich of choice is the “Vito” which can only be obtained from your friendly neighborhood Jimmy John’s, home of the world’s greatest gourmet sandwiches since 1983. Or so their slogan states.

The Vito, in my humble opinion, is handcrafted with the perfect blend of genoa salami, provolone, capicola, onion, lettuce, and tomato; which is then topped off with a tasty Italian vinaigrette. Special thanks to the Jimmy John’s web site for that rundown on the ingredients.
When ordering a sub sandwich, I always go for the combo. This, as every fast food aficionado knows, includes chips and a drink which together provide a harmonious balance to one’s meal.

Jimmy John’s chips are simply outstanding. They are the kettle style of chips which provide your mouth and teeth with a real workout of munchy goodness; as long as one avoids breaking a tooth in the process. As far as I’m concerned, the only chips worth eating are the BBQ variety. Enough said.
After arriving home with my combo meal in hand, I remembered that there as an alternative beverage in the `fridge which actually would pair much better with my Vito than the Cherry Coke I had initially opted for.

My youngest son recently moved out of state. While in the process of moving, he had failed to take along a bottle of St. Bernadus Belgian Abbey Ale which he had purchased shortly before his departure.

His loss, as the saying goes, was to prove to be my gain!

I’m sure that St. Bernadus would agree that his delightful brew is the perfect malt beverage to enjoy along with a Jimmy John’s Vito.

I’m also quite confident that the good Saint would have recognized a father’s obligation to purge the refrigerator of rogue bottles of malt beverages from time to time! For reasons of maintaining a sanitary environment within the refrigerator, if nothing else!



The New and Improved Grid Lock is Here!

Those of us who live within the confines of greater metropolitan Atlanta know, as do all residents of large cities, that traffic is a royal pain in the betoot!

Metro-Atlanta is somewhat unique among the U.S.’s large areas of urban sprawl in that there are no geographical features which confine or restrict its growth. There are no rivers, oceans, lakes, or mountain ranges to box it in; even if only in one direction. Atlanta simply keeps growing in all directions, much like a gallon of milk inadvertently spilled on the kitchen floor.

Look out Alabama, South Carolina, and Tennessee! Florida is still relatively safe.

Anyway, back to the topic of traffic. Atlanta traffic isn’t the worst I’ve ever driven in, I still maintain that Boston holds that honor, but metro-Atlanta traffic has got to be in the “Bottom 10” of locales in which to enjoy a casual afternoon drive.

This evening on my way home from work, I witnessed a traffic phenomena which I had never observed before. I was cruising along one of our many major three-lane arteries during the early rush hour when I was halted by a traffic light which had just turned red.
No one stomped on their gas pedals to rush through the intersection in that anything goes five second period immediately after the light has turned red. That in itself was a remarkably rare event, but it’s not the phenomena to which I’m referring.

Sitting at the red light, I was the second car in line in the middle lane. When the lights turned green, none of the the cars in any of the three lanes began to progress through the intersection. It was as if time, and traffic along with it, had frozen.

I looked up to re-confirm that the lights were green. They were, but due to the fact that no car in any of the three lanes was moving, there was a moment of mental confusion reinforced by the fact that none of the drivers in any of the lines were sitting on their car’s horns in a “polite” attempt to stir the lead cars into belated action.

Finally, after a good eight to ten second delay, one lane began to move out followed quickly by the other two.

It was in that moment that insight flashed through my mind and I realized I had just observed, what may have been, the first ever case of “Text-Lock“; a gridlock-like condition which I will define as:

The inability of traffic to flow freely due to the drivers of multiple immobile vehicles being simultaneously engrossed in the act of sending text messages on their cell phones.

TextingBriefly, I and my car had been completely encircled by drivers totally absorbed in the act of sending messages of highly questionable merit to equally uninterested friends and/or family members.

At least they weren’t attempting to do so while we were all in motion. I always try to find the good in every situation.

“And the Envelope, Please . . . . “

I was just watching Pardon the Interruption, the ESPN sports show featuring the opinions and views of sports writers Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on just about every important sports story of the day.

I’ve channel surfed past this show countless times as I searched for something worth watching during those nebulous minutes which are wedged in between the end of the work day and TV-land’s mythical “prime time”.

Momentary pauses to watch the program for a few seconds have, over time, grown into longer and more frequent viewings.  Along the way, I’ve come to recognize that Pardon the Interruption may well be an acquired taste.  It has only been within the past few months that I’ve come to truly appreciate the show’s worthiness as an entertaining source of sports information and topical updates.
Texas A M Johnny Football 1
One of the highlights of this evening’s program were the back-to-back interviews with Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel (aka Johnny Football) and Notre Dame’s Mantei Te’o, two of the leading candidates for this season’s Heisman trophy, presented annually to the most outstanding player in collegiate football.
It was so refreshing to watch two such unassuming young men represent themselves, as well as their teams, with genuine humbleness and gratitude for the opportunity.  They both demonstrated understated dignity during their respective interviews, a trait totally lost on far too many of today’s predominant college and professional athletes.

I don’t really have a favorite in this year’s Heisman Trophy race; I rarely do.  But I rest assured that either of these young men will be worthy recipients if the award happens to come their way on Saturday night.  On second thought, I hope that the nod goes to the senior, Mantei Te’o.  As a freshman, Manziel has three more opportunities to pick one up.

In the meantime, I applaud Kornheiser and Wilbon for their interviews of these two young men.